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Sanctae Crucis Award Recipients 2011

John A. Zaia, M.D. '64

Brilliant physician.  Pioneering researcher. Visionary leader at California’s renowned City of Hope Medical Center. 

For more than 30 years, John Zaia has been at the forefront of improving antiviral therapy, untangling the puzzles of deadly infections and developing effective treatments for viral diseases in immunologically compromised children and adults with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and organ transplants.  In addition to devoting his career to understanding the origins and development of viruses, he has brought new knowledge to treating infections through vaccines, genetic therapies, and other innovative methods of molecular medicine and biology. 

In the groundbreaking clinical trials he currently leads at City of Hope, John and his colleagues are actively investigating promising new gene therapies for HIV positive patients with AIDS-related lymphoma, a process aimed at repairing patients’ immune systems so that they can control the virus and not need AIDS medicines.

His current research is one of the many firsts in John’s extraordinary career.  Consider just a few of them:

He developed an antibody preparation which was the first agent available that prevented or modified severe chickenpox in children with cancer. 

He was the first to describe the method that was later approved for the prevention of severe cytomegalovirus disease after organ transplantation, making it safer to perform organ transplants in at-risk patients of all ages.

He and his colleagues were the first to propose a revolutionary method to neutralize HIV/AIDS using ribozymes, a genetic material that acts as a “molecular scissor” to cut up HIV genes and prevent the virus from growing and spreading.

Acclaimed in the national and international medical communities, widely published and holder of 10 patents, John has made unparalleled contributions to medicine.  He has held several major grants from the National Institutes of Health, and currently serves as chair of the Institutes’ Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee.  After graduating from Holy Cross, John received a bachelor of medicine in science degree from Dartmouth and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.  He completed training in pediatrics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, where he began his long and esteemed research career in clinical virology.

John was recently named the first holder of the City of Hope’s Aaron D. and Edith Miller Chair in Gene Therapy, which supports his groundbreaking research into the development of gene therapies to treat HIV, cancer and other serious illnesses.

For his dedication to healing, for his intellectual rigor and discoveries that have advanced science, for saving many lives and for pointing the way to future enhancements in curing the sick, the College of the Holy Cross presents to John A. Zaia the Sanctae Crucis Award.